Saturday, May 02, 2009

Not Off To A Great Start, Actually...

Ok, first of all, I want to apologize to all of my local readers, friends, and co-workers who woke up on Thursday to see what they thought was a drunk-dial missed call from me very early in the morning.

I assure you, that was not the case.

I kicked off my day when it was still kinda Wednesday night. I was up all night playing poker at the M, but it wasn't so much fun this time around. First of all, Carmen wasn't with me, and she's about the best poker sidekick one could have. Second of all, it was one of those 'statistical variation' nights where everyone catches their river card except for yours truly. I must've been sucked out on and handed bad beats at least a dozen times or more. Third of all, while my favorite dealer was there--the one who seems to always deal me the big hands--she only did one round at my table the entire night. That sucked much--truly the poker gods were conspiring against me last night.

At one point, a new dealer pushed into the game, and I lost exactly $100 in four straight hands, flopping flushes, straights, and sets, only to be rivered each time. I re-bought (for the second time), and forgot about it, and several hours later when the game broke, I thought I was up about $80 for the night. But when I did my final countdown, I realized that I was actually stuck twenty bucks.

Shiat. That ain't supposed to happen.

Thinking I was only up eighty bucks, and knowing that my goal each night is to reach $150 in profit, I stuck around to the bitter end, even when the game got down to being six-handed. Time was on my side--the longer I play, the better chance I have of collecting. When the game finally broke, I was still the big stack at the table, but I was unable to get over the hump.

Screw it--it was 4:30 in the morning anyways, and I needed my sleep. I wandered out to the parking garage with the intention of coming home and going to bed, but no, the poker gods, unable to smite me down at the tables, sent word to the mechanical gods to pick up where they left off and to mess with me.

Turning the key in my still-brand-new-in-my-mind truck, I was greeted with nothing but clicks and flashing lights on the dashboard. The engine refused to turn over, and the interior lights were noticeably dimmer than usual.

I figured it was a dead battery, as when I'd left the house the night before, the engine hesitated for a brief second before starting up. I remember thinking to myself that I should probably get the battery replaced soon, because even though they say the battery is supposed to last 60 months, out here in the desert heat, they never last two summers. And in two months, it will be three years since I drove the truck off the showroom floor--it was definitely time for a replacement.

So I wandered back in to the casino, and asked the floorman in the poker room to send security over and give me a jump. While doing that, I went over to the self-serve soft drink fountain and got a glass of Coca Cola to clean off the battery cables.

As I walked back over towards the exit nearest the poker room, I was told that security doesn't give jump starts to customers. Apparently they've been taking customer service training from the folks over at the Red Cup Cafe.

Whatever. I figured I could clean the terminals and get one good crank out of the engine, enough to get me on my way.

So I lifted the hood, and yep, the negative battery terminal was covered in gray crud. So I dumped about a half a cup of Coke on it and let the acid go to work. It was clean in no time. I grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler that was still sitting behind the passenger's seat (leftovers from the weekend at Caesars), and rinsed all the sticky crud off the battery. One of Caesars hand towels gave its life in a noble cause and mopped up all the remnants, leaving me a battery that was as clean and new-looking as the day I brought the truck home for the first time.

I hoped in the cab, gave it a crank... and then swore.

I wasn't going anywhere.

Ok, so the security toads at the M wouldn't give me a jump? We'll see about that. I know if I would've left it with the valet, and it was dead, they'd be able to round up some jumper cables pronto!

So I put it in Neutral and pushed it across the top floor of the parking garage. My intent was to park it right in front of the entrance doors to the casino with the hood up. I bet I'd get some help then. I made it about 30 feet short of the goal when the deck of the parking garage took a slight upward grade, one you would never notice unless you were trying to, say, push a 3000-lb. truck up it. But I was close enough, so I sat there with the hood up, trying to figure out my next move.

I went through my cell phone, and I started to call local friends and co-workers. Nope, nobody was answering the phone at 4:45 in the morning. Imagine that.

Eventually, a security guard in an SUV pulled up and offered to help. He opened the back of the truck to reveal all kinds of goodies--a portable defibulator, a big first-aid kid, flares, cones, crime-scene tape, tools, pretty much everything you could think of except a set of jumper cables.

I suggested that they might have a set down at the valet stand, so he took off to go look. In the meantime, I was trying to figure out whatever happened to the nice set I bought back in Nashville.

Oh yeah, they were in the trunk of the Ghetto Sled, along with spare belts, hoses, and fluids--my mechanical first-aid kit because I never knew when I'd get stranded in that thing. When I finally abandoned it on the side of the road three years ago, I figured the only thing of worth in that car was the $50 of gas I'd put in the day before. I should've grabbed the jumper cables. And having a brand-spankin' new truck a month later, I never considered that I'd need 'em again, so I forgot about them and never replaced 'em. Like I say whenever I make a good laydown at the poker table--I am *so* smart. S-M-R-T!


Anyhow, the only helpful security guard in the joint came back a few minutes later and told me that I was on my own--they're not allowed to jump start customer's cars for them. Hell, I didn't want that--I'd do the deed myself, I just wanted to borrow some cables and get under the hood of the SUV, that's all.

But just like the craps table with a lid on it--no dice.

Well, that just sucked. He drove off, basically washing his hands of the situation and letting me know that I was truly on my own. Further proving that I am so 'smrt', I totally forgot about the roadside assistance I have with my insurance. Duh.

So I kept working my way through my phone directory before I finally got hold of my saviour, Linda Lou. She was wide awake, chipper, and more than willing to do whatever she could to help. She, of course, didn't have any jumper cables, either. But, she was willing to go to the all-nite WalMart and pick some up, then come and rescue me. She said she'd be there in an hour.

Luckily, I was stranded at a casino, so it's not like I didn't have anything to do.

I went back inside and found my gal Jovanka, standing post on a dead blackjack table. So I sat down with her and ordered a cup of coffee from the latest smokin' hot chick to wander by and flirt with me, hoping to get a buck. But they know I'm a sucker for it, and it works every time.

Anyhow, I only got to talk to her for a few minutes before she went on break, and then I was kinda lost. I would've played some nice slow Pai Gow, but they didn't have a single game going. I figured that a few quick rolls of the tumbling dice would not only help me get my twenty bucks back from the poker room, but pay for the jumper cables and a new battery, if it came down to that.

Not the best plan I've ever come up with.

Ten minutes later, I was down another eighty bucks, bringing the bill for the night to an even hundred. Grrrr... Ok, one last shot--I wandered over to the slot machine that I won $54 on the other day when Cyndi and I were there, but it burned through that twenty bucks like a stripper hurrying through a lapdance. I got no satisfaction, anywhere.

So I headed back out to the truck, thinking it would gimme shelter from the approaching sunrise, and to wait for the Linda Lou cavalry to come to my mechanical rescue.

(This concludes the Rolling Stones portion of today's post. Thank you.)

Anyhow, Linda and her 200,000-mile Saturn with the dented roof showed up a little while later, and we got down to work. Actually, I had her stand back--she was all dressed up and looking nice, ready to head into the office, and my hands were already dirty. I unwrapped my new set of jumper cables, hooked 'em up, and had Linda give it a little gas. Thirty seconds later, my truck started right up, like nothing was wrong. Sweet.

Linda said that since the hood was up for the first time in forever, she should probably put some oil in. Since my hands were dirty, I told her I'd take care of it. I checked the dipstick--bone dry. That couldn't be right, so I pulled it again. Still bone dry. WTF?

Linda--when was the last time you checked the oil?

I dunno. But I know it probably needs some.

Hell yeah it does! I opened the crankcase cap and was greeted with smoke. That ain't supposed to happen. It reminded me of all those times I let the wok get too hot before actually adding the veggies--not a good sign. But she had two quarts of oil handy, so I poured 'em in as fast as I could, hoping to stave off the inevitable blown engine. I did a quick lap around the roof of the parking garage in my truck (it's about the size of a football field), then pulled over and turned off the engine, to see if it would restart. It did, so I figured I was good to go, but then I checked the oil level in Linda's car again since the stuff I poured in had a minute or two to cycle through.

The dipstick then showed that it was over-full, so I told Linda to get down to the Jiffy Lube ASAP and have them drain and change the oil, just to make sure. But the dry dipstick and all that smoke coming from inside the crankcase tells me that I'll probably be rescuing her from the side of the road pretty soon. What goes around comes around... But she didn't seem too concerned--I guess 200,000 miles is just about enough--perhaps it's time for a new ride, anyways.

Anyhow, once all the vehicular issues were taken care of, we said our goodbyes, making plans to meet up later in the day down at the Frog.

On my way home, I pulled over in a parking lot and talked to Mamasan on the phone for a bit, while just idling my truck to make sure the battery was charged. Once I got home, I backed into the driveway, just in case I needed a jump again later. I spent most of my day writing and sleeping, but Carmen kept texting me and waking me up. That's ok--we had plans for the night--she was gonna come out and meet me and Linda for drinks and buffoonery.

When it was time to go, I was hoping that all was well with the battery, but as soon as I turned the key over, it clicked a few times and the engine did the 'slow roll' on me. But it caught and I managed to get the engine started. Whew!

I drove down to the Frog, backing into the parking space, just in case, and then went inside to kick off my evening. Luckily they had plenty of Sierra Nevada pale ale on tap, so there was no danger of them running out this week. Linda showed up a few minutes later, and I spent a wonderful couple of hours laughing it up with her, Todd, Mean Katie, and Carmen. It was kind of a mellow night, with a smaller-than-usual crowd, but it didn't matter--we had fun. And Linda was thoughtful enough to bring me a nice present for my birthday.

She had gotten me a copy of The Artist's Way, hoping it would fuel my creativity so that I would get off my ass and take advantage of some of the paid writing gigs within my reach. (She'll be the first to admit that she nags me about it all the time). I spent a few minutes thumbing through it there at the bar, and everyone in attendance said it was a great resource, so I'm looking forward to jumping in.

Linda bailed out first again, but this time she had a legitimate excuse--she was taking off first thing in the morning for New Orleans for her annual pilgrimage to Jazz Fest, and that left Carmen and I to goof off unsupervised. Due to many requests of more 'shirt lifter' pics of Carmen, we took a bunch of those, much to the delight of our fellow patrons. Here's a couple of the shareable ones for you pervs, but the better ones are in the vault: (Actually, the best ones are on Carmen's camera, dammit)

Actually, it wasn't all naughty poses while we were there--there was some normalcy on hand, too. Here is (are?) Sarah and Todd, two people waaaay smarter than me.

And this is Mean Katie and Andrea. Mean Katie is one of my favorite writers--she truly has a gift for storytelling, and Andrea is my connection with the Sin City Rollergirls--she's new to the team and got us the tickets to the 'bout'.

I know that Katie hates her pictures, but in real life, she's very attractive. And if I had Todd's camera, all of us would look like supermodels. Seriously--his camera takes the best pictures I've ever seen in low light. Here's a pic of her I stole off of his Flickr account:

See what I mean?

Anyhow... We had an enjoyable time, but called it an early night. It was a weeknight, and everyone else had real jobs to go to in the morning, so I was back home in bed by 9:00 pm. (Also, the truck started again, but just barely, and the next morning was even worse, but I managed to limp down to WalMart and get it fixed).

So that was the story of my birthday--it got off to a rough start, but it ended on a high note. As far as the weekend goes, so far, it's been pretty mellow. I had to work on Friday night, but it was a short shift, and I think I'm gonna take a few days off from the poker table--it seems that I'm running bad right now. Well, not bad, but the last few sessions have been real grinds and I haven't been making as much as I normally do. And I don't want to be at the table in case my luck is on a downward trend for a few days. Besides, I've got a couple of nights of work ahead of me, so I'll probably climb back up on the horse on Wednesday or so.


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